Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State.
By James Ogunnaike
A person who is worthy of being a leader wants power not for himself, but in order to be of service” ¯ Sam J. Ervin Jr.
“Our overall character is made up of specific individual traits and qualities for which each of us, as individuals, have some qualities that are more positive and some that are negative. Some are stronger while others are weaker. It is those character traits, or qualities, that determine how we often respond, react or attend to issues in any given situation”.
Sunday, August 2 would have been a day to be remembered for some time in Ogun State following a protest staged by parents of boarding students in private secondary schools in the state.
The protest was to drag their displeasure known over the decision by government that each boarding student in private secondary schools would have to cough out N25, 000 to get tested for coronavirus before their resumption on August 4 for their WASSCE scheduled to commence on August 17.
The protest generated outcry from stakeholders including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), political parties, and the general public.
The NLC, through a statement by the State Chairman, Comrade Emmanuel Bankole, and Acting Secretary, Comrade Olatunji Ayuba, said government action portrayed it as insensitive to the plight of the citizenry.
Perturbed by the rave of public outcry against the decision, Governor Dapo Abiodun had to summon the Special Adviser on Basic and Secondary Education, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, and the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, to a meeting.
It was gathered that, the governor was angry over the ugly development because he was unaware of the mandatory levy on private secondary school students for covid-19 test on the state.
It was also gathered that the subsidized N25, 000 for Covid-19 test by private primary and secondary schools students was solely the decision of the Special Adviser and some Directors of the Ministry of Education.
“The governor is not happy about this development, most especially when he knew nothing about the said N25, 000 charge on secondary school students”, a source said.
Buttressing the opinion above, a former governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Ogun, Otunba Rotimi Paseda, said, “One needs to know the man behind an office to be able to assess that office properly! If you know Dapo Abiodun, you will soon realise that he is all about humanity and I do believe that he will not have known about the proposed student charges for Covid-19 test and it would be out of character for Dapo Abiodun if he was aware and agreed to such charges”.
Arising from the meeting with Soyombo and Coker, Abiodun ordered that the COVID-19 test for the returning SS3 students be stepped down.
He equally directed that government laboratories carry out the test at no cost while all those who have paid be refunded.
The governor said: “The admittance of students into boarding house in private secondary schools will be at the discretion of the management and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of such private schools.
“The inconvenience and confusion experienced is highly regrettable and my sincere apologies to the parents and students so affected.
“The state has been very apprehensive about the issue of school opening even for exit students.
“Data from other countries where schools have resumed shows that community transmission in school environment is a major concern.
“Even countries with stronger health care facilities than ours are being very cautious.
“We have put in place guidelines that would ensure that our students resume in a safe environment.
“I appreciate the cooperation, support, resilience and understanding of all the people of Ogun towards flattening the curve of COVID-19”.
Aside the cancellation of the Covid-19 test, the state government equally put in place facilities to meet preventive criteria which include virtual training on prevention of Covid-19 for school administrative heads and teachers; decontamination of schools and training of teachers as first line responders.
Other government interventions include establishment of sick bays/isolation rooms in all public secondary schools; provision of infrared thermometers,
provision of adequate supply of running water and provision of veronica buckets.
Government also directed all school administrators to ensure that teachers are frequently trained on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for virtual engagement of students and principals and vice-principals to ensure staggering of closing time for students.
There will not be general school assembly but schools will observe class assembly.
There are additional requirement for boarding schools, which the state Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will communicate to schools before operating the facilities.
These measures are also applicable to all private schools operating in Ogun.
As a matter, it should be noted that any school, whether private or public, that fails to comply with these guidelines will not be allowed to reopen.
The ability of the governor to yield to the request of the masses and equally came bold to apologize to the entire people of the state earned the governor more respect as a responsive governor.
The act demonstrated the level of humility on the part of the number one citizen and this has generated reactions and commendations for Abiodun.
The Adele of Orile Oko Kingdom, High Chief Olakunle
Olalekan, said the action of the governor showed that the current administration is not insensitive to the plight of the people.
He urged residents of Ogun to continue to support the administration to end Covid-19 in the state.
In the same vein, Ijebu Youths Association, through a release by their President, Fayomi Wasiu Okikiola, commended Abiodun for declaring Covid-19 test free for students.
The youths described the governor as a democrat.
The Chairman of the Ogun State Park Management (OGSPAM), Alhaji Akeem Bodunrin, also applauded the administration for declaring free Covid-19 test for students.
Bodunrin described Abiodun as a compassionate leader with the interest of the people of Ogun at heart.
Ola Muritala, on his part, opined that the action of the governor captured it all that he is a listening and responsive governor.
“This shows that Abiodun is a listening governor and one who respects others’ opinions”, he said.
A former Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Ogun State chapter, Femi Dokunmu, said the way Abiodun resolved the protest over the #25,000 fee for COVID-19 test once again brought to the fore the essence of public opinion management in governance.
He said, “Governance, especially in democracies, requires that formulation and implementation of government policies and programmes should take into consideration all stakeholders views and public opinion at various stages of formulation and implementation”.
“With the way the fee had been introduced, there is no doubt that all the relevant stakeholders or publics have not been properly carried along and their opinion and interests respected. Hence, the wave of protests and spate at which even some relevant government officials distance themselves from the exercise”.
“However, the intervention of the governor and his objective assessment of the situation must have revealed the shortcomings in the process and how public opinion does not favour, not only this process but also its implications for the image of the governor and his government”.
Speaking on the governor’s action, the State Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Olamiposi Oginni, commended him for reversing the decision.
Oginni saluted the governor for his show of humility.
“The issues of education and health of Ogun children are very sensitive issues. I appreciate the fact that Gov. Abiodun didn’t listen to sycophants”, he said.
“The governor is humble enough to tendered unreserved apologies. I will forever respect Gov Dapo Abiodun for this”.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Ogun State Chapter of Labour Party, Comrade Abayomi Olufemi Arabambi, said:
“Government was even so very humble enough to cancel Covid -19 test as requirement for students’ resumption.
“Government has also ordered public laboratories to carry out the test at no cost to students.
“Government equally directed that each returning student should be supplied with a free face mask”.
“Upon all, in his own name, the governor did tender apology for the inconveniences that resulted from the protest.
“Take all of the above and run the comparison of this government against some of our recent state governments.
“I have read some uninformed and careless comments accusing the government of shoddy planning and inadequate research before bringing a policy that got eventually somersaulted and had to be withdrawn at the expense of inconveniences to parents.
“It is high time people started to strive to be adequately informed about government objectives in any of its policy.
“Government explanation and apology are so much refreshing and a pleasant departure from known and usual official arrogance in the past governments”.